Will Sarnia see more armed police at public events?

An Officer with Sarnia Police Service’s Emergency Response Team stands guard during the Remembrance Day services at the downtown Sarnia Cenotaph, on November 11, 2014. “We decided to take a proactive approach this year in the interest of safety and security,” said Sarnia Police Service’s Media Officer, Constable Les Jones. Troy Shantz, Special to The Journal

Marco Vigliotti

The heavily-armed police officers present at this year’s Remembrance Day services is not the new normal for public events in Sarnia, the police chief says.

Sarnia Police officers in tactical gear armed with C-8 paramilitary rifles were stationed around the perimeter of the large crowd that gathered at the library cenotaph on Nov. 11 to honour Canada’s veterans.

Chief Phil Nelson said the decision to send officers in protective vests and Emergency Response Team members to watch over the service was prompted by calls for increased security.

“It was tied into what happened in Ottawa. There were no concrete concerns or issues involving planned attacks,” said Nelson, noting it was the first Remembrance Day in at least 40 years that required such a strong security presence.

The service came just weeks after two Canadian soldiers were killed in suspected terrorist attacks in Quebec and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Those attacks were reportedly inspired by a call from the Islamic State to target soldiers of countries participating in U.S.-led airstrikes against the terrorist group.

Asked if Sarnians should expect to see more rifle-toting police personnel at future public events, Nelson said he didn’t believe that’s the case.

He also downplayed concerns the weaponry unnerved some of those in attendance, saying the response has been mostly positive.

“(We’ve received) many very favourable comments, just thanking us for providing protection,” Nelson said.

Mayor Mike Bradley, who also sits on the Police Services Board, said the civilian oversight body has not  met since the Parliament Hill shooting and so hasn’t discussed the heavily-armed officers at public outings.

He agreed the public was largely supportive, although some seemed saddened that “big city security is now needed, at least on a temporary basis, across Canada,” he said.